UK intelligence officers knew of CIA’s rendition plans within days of 9/11
Posted by Xeno on October 30, 2012
… Within days of the 9/11 attacks on the US, the CIA told British intelligence officers of its plans to abduct al-Qaida suspects and fly them to secret prisons where they would be systematically abused.
The meeting, at the British embassy in Washington, is disclosed in a forthcoming book by the Guardian journalist Ian Cobain. It raises serious questions about repeated claims by senior MI5 and MI6 officers that they were slow to appreciate the US response to the attacks, and never connived in torture.
The meeting signalled to British officials that the US was preparing to embark on a global kidnapping programme which became known as extraordinary rendition. Cobain reveals that at the end of a three-hour presentation by Cofer Black, President George Bush’s top counter-terrorist adviser, Mark Allen – his opposite number in MI6 – commented that it all sounded “rather bloodcurdling”.
A few weeks later, in early October 2001, at a secret meeting at Nato headquarters in Brussels, US officials drew up a list of “necessary measures to increase security”, Cobain discloses. They included flights to and from secret prisons in Asia, Africa, and throughout Europe. “Quietly, Britain pledged logistics support for the rendition programme, which resulted in the CIA’s Gulfstream V and other jets becoming frequent visitors to British airports en route to the agency’s secret prisons,” writes Cobain.
Over the next four years CIA rendition flights used British airports at least 210 times. The book reveals that Washington asked the UK for permission to build a large prison on Diego Garcia, the British territory in the Indian Ocean where the US has a large bomber base. The project was dropped, for logistical rather than legal reasons.
However, Diego Garcia was used as a stopover for CIA flights taking detainees to secret prisons around the world. And in secret memos, Labour ministers said in early 2002 that their “preferred option” was to render British nationals to Guantánamo Bay, Cobain records. MI5 and MI6 officers carried out around 100 interrogations at the US prison on Cuba between 2002 and 2004.
Yet for years ministers emphatically denied any British involvement in America’s rendition programme. As late as December 2005, Jack Straw, then foreign secretary, was telling MPs there was “simply no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition”. Just a year earlier, we now know, MI6 – under Straw’s watch and with the blessing of ministers, officials say – helped to render two leading Libyan dissidents to Muammar Gaddafi’s secret police.
Despite the post-9/11 Washington embassy and Nato meetings, and other evidence of their early involvement in rendition, MI5 and MI6 witnesses told the parliamentary intelligence and security committee (ISC) that it was some time before they knew what the US was up to. As late as July 2007, the misinformed ISC stated in a report on rendition that MI5 and MI6 “were … slow to detect the emerging pattern of renditions to detention”.
Cobain’s book, Cruel Britannia, says the British military operated a “torture centre” throughout the 1940s “in complete secrecy, in a row of Victorian villas in one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in London”. They also ran an “interrogation centre” near Hanover in Germany. Evidence from newly released records shows that British involvement in abuse was common earlier – in the colonies, later in Northern Ireland, and much more recently in Iraq.
The book reveals that Allen (who was later to develop a cosy relationship with Gaddafi’s intelligence chiefs) expressed concern after the post-9/11 meeting in the UK embassy in Washington about what would happen once the Americans had “hammered the mercury in Afghanistan”. Al-Qaida would simply scatter elsewhere, destabilising entire regions, Allen suggested. A CIA officer who was present at the embassy meeting remarked later that while the British appeared laid back, “it was clear they were worried, and not without reason”.
GUARDIAN.CO.UK | OCTOBER 22, 2012
How many days “after” 9/11 was torture to elicit “confessions” planned?
After the September 11 attacks, there is a dramatic increase in the frequency of US-requested “renditions.” [Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/1/2003; Washington Post, 5/11/2004, pp. A01] Officially, the original purpose of renditions was to bring suspected foreign criminals, such as drug kingpins, to justice (see 1993). But after September 11, it is used predominantly to arrest and detain foreign nationals designated as suspected terrorists and bring them to foreign countries that are willing to hold them indefinitely for further questioning and without public proceedings. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; New York Times, 3/9/2003; Washington Post, 5/11/2004, pp. A01; Washington Post, 1/2/2005, pp. A01] According to one CIA officer interviewed by the Washington Post, after September 11, “The whole idea [becomes] a corruption of renditions—It’s not rendering to justice, it’s kidnapping.” [Washington Post, 1/2/2005, pp. A01] “There was a debate after 9/11 about how to make people disappear,” a former intelligence official will tell the New York Times in May 2004. [New York Times, 5/13/2004] By the end of 2002, the number of terrorism suspects sent to foreign countries is in the thousands. Many of the renditions involve captives from the US operation in Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/1/2003; Washington Post, 5/11/2004, pp. A01] The countries receiving the rendered suspects are often known human rights violators like Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco, all of which have histories of using torture and other methods of interrogation that are not legal in the US. The rendition program often ignores local and international extradition laws. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01] In fact, US officials have admitted that the justification for rendition is sometimes fabricated—the US requests that a suspect be rendered, and then the allied foreign government charges the person “with a crime of some sort.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002; Los Angeles Times, 2/1/2003] After a suspect is relocated to another country, US intelligence agents may “remain closely involved” in the interrogations, sometimes even “doing [them] together” with the foreign government’s intelligence service. [Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; New York Times, 3/9/2003; Washington Post, 5/11/2004, pp. A01] The level of cooperation with Saudi interrogators is allegedly high. “In some cases,” according to one official, “we’re able to observe through one-way mirrors the live investigations. In others, we usually get summaries. We will feed questions to their investigators.” He adds, however, “They’re still very much in control.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] Joint intelligence task forces, which consist of members from the CIA, FBI, and some other US law enforcement agencies, allegedly control to a large extent the approximately 800 terrorism suspects detained in Saudi Arabia. [Washington Post, 5/11/2004, pp. A01]